Monday, August 04, 2008

Friday 23rd February 1940

The forth night at Gedera. Stan’s prophecy has been right enough so far. There was no normal training or work. Only fatigues. And what I’ve heard described as “barrack room or camp sports”. Kits meticulously arranged for inspection each morning, so that we suffer a maximum of small discomforts owing to the inaccessibility of our things, and the rush to get ready. Today further instructions were issued – more piffling little alterations to the way in which kit is stacked. Greatcoats will not be worn now but must be shown, along with service jacket and slacks – oh! And all buttons on these must be polished! The steel helmet is to be placed on top of the mountain, with the flash to the front, this being most important…

Everyone in camp seems fed-up and there are complaints re the food. Really it isn’t bad but that’s one way in which a soldier may safely complain when generally fed-up. No postage stamps available yet..

Gedera was not ready for us, so why did we rush here, without pausing for the much desired farewell leave? There seems nothing to do here except suffer discomfort.
The dust is awful, swirling into the tents and into our kits, laid out as if waiting to receive it. The washing arrangements are still primitive. But – it’s warm! Beautiful and warm!

The first mail from England came yesterday and there was more this afternoon.
This morning an Arab voice was crying “Tea!” in the lines. “Tea here!” bawled Stan, from the next bed and woke me up. (The time was only 5:20a.m but it gave us more time for preparing for inspection.) A pair of weird looking Arabs poured into the tent with a tea-pot, offering cups of tea at 5 mils each. “Get me one, Stan,” I mumbled and found he’d already done so, paying over the money by the light of a candle stored under my bed. We made the Arabs promise to come tomorrow; hope they do.

A route march today of 6-7 miles under war conditions, with scouts ahead and all that. Hard going, through dust and sand and over rough ground. Peculiarities of the climate: the high wind, the dust and the heat. The wind, swirling clouds of dust around, is well-hated. Then there’s the sudden-ness of the coming of dawn and darkness. Hardly any twilight at either end of the day! Wonderful cool nights – and this evening there’s a full moon blazing down on the wide blank countryside.

I’ve been writing this in the canteen; Stan Ling sitting at the same table, writing home. Well, lets hope we can stick Gedera until things get better! (If they ever do…)

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